"The Last Moon": A Matter of Origins By Ernesto Garratt

in 27th Moscow International Film Festival

by Ernesto Garratt

Miguel Littin has finally made it back to Moscow. The last time the Chilean director was in competition in this festival was for Alsino and the Condor (Alsino y el Condor, back in 1983), when he received the Golden Prize for best film. His Moscow comeback is with The Last Moon (La ultima luna), his latest work, and is a film that has two distinctive features. On the one hand, it gives new life to the filmmaker’s career (that has been shadowed since the release of Tierra del fuego in 2000). On the other hand, The Last Moon follows a new trend in Chilean cinema – the search for the country’s identity and roots.

Throughout his career, Littin has been considered a political director and The Last Moon is very much a political movie. The plot is a clear defence of the Palestine point of view regarding the Middle East conflict. However, it is also a study of the Palestine migration to Chile around the beginning of the last century.

The film tells the story of how a Palestinian family is divided when some of its members travel to Chile to start a new life. Nowadays, the biggest Palestine colony outside the Holy Land resides in Chile. In fact, Littin has Palestinian grandparents and one of the goals he wants to reach through the making of this movie is telling his family origins. There is a captivating scene where a portrait of Arturo Prat (a Chilean Navy martyr and national hero) can be seen dressed in Palestinian costume. That image is about roots, origin and the mixture that defines an important part of Chilean identity.

For this reason, The Last Moon is similar to films such as Machuca, Subterra and Mi mejor enemigo, as movies that are an essential part of the new Chilean Cinema. This is a movement that tries to focus on historical facts instead of just translating what may seem like political propaganda (Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship) into the silver screen.

Even if The Last Moon is set in the Holy Land around a hundred years ago, Littin creates characters that have a universal feel to them. His main character is a loving Palestinian family man. This character has a Jewish friend and a pacifist view of life, even though he is right in the centre of the Middle East conflict.

It may well be that Littin’s return to the Moscow International Film Festival is with a movie that will revitalise his reputation, as this is his best work in years. However, where it fails is in that it is too ambitious and it lacks the means to justify this ambition. The film works better if it is understood as some kind of family album. However, beyond that intimate and enclosed territory, he tries to build a complex historical scenery that involves the arrival of British soldiers and religious tension. Due mainly to the low budget, there isn’t a proper recreation of the period and there are not enough extras to – in that sense – make the production believable, and it doesn’t rise to the occasion.

All the same, the movie has some good moments, especially in the magnificent sights – with landscapes that look as if they where chosen between images of better days, when a Chilean director could win the Moscow International Film Festival and, at the same time, get an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film for Alsino and the Condor. This was even more impressive at that time for not caring about the Cold War, or the cultural, political or religious differences.